Sleeping Dogs Review

  • Developer: United Front Games
  • Publisher: Square Enix
  • Release Date: 16 Aug 2012

Plot (4/5)
In Sleeping Dogs, you play the role of a Chinese American cop called Wei Shen who was originally based in San Francisco but returns to his home town of Hong Kong. He is recruited by the Hong Kong Police force to infiltrate the Triads as he happens to have a childhood friend who is a junior member of one of them. Most of the game focuses on two particular triads: the Sun On Yee and 18K which are thinly veiled references to real-life Triad groups: Sun Yee On and 14K.

Credit should be given to the development team for creating a plot that is not your typical GTA-clone where you’re well and truly part of the mob. Like the Infernal Affairs movies or the Departed (basically the Hollywood version of Infernal Affairs) the game explores the challenges and the conflicting loyalties that undercover cops have when infiltrating organised crime groups (in this case, the Triads). Sometimes it starts to sound like a broken record, especially every time your character Wei Shen meets with a chap named Raymond the conversation always ends up along the lines of:

Raymond: "You’re meant to be a cop, start acting like one."
Shen: "You don’t understand what it’s like!"
Raymond: "You’re getting too close. We need to call off the operation."
Shen: "No I’ve got them where I want them, you can’t pull me out now! Just give me more time!"

And so on.

Later on it becomes a bit confusing as to who are the bad guys and who are the good guys – and how does one return to normal life with so much blood on their hands, although maybe that’s the point. As a result, the plot in Sleeping Dogs is probably one of the more mature ones out there, even if its execution is clumsy at parts.

Gameplay (3/5)
Sleeping Dogs is what you call a "GTA-clone". i.e. like the Grand Theft Auto series, you are given free reign to cause as much mayhem in the city as you see fit. You can assault civilians, criminals and police, and hijack cars all in an open world environment (in this case, Hong Kong Island). Unlike many GTA clones however, you’re not just simply the bad guy – you have to help the police out every so often too.

Combat is definitely the most fun aspect of the game: pulling off well-timed counters and using special Kung Fu moves is a highlight. In fact, I even noticed some Wing Chun moves as part of Wei Shen’s repertoire – which means some of the moves are authentic. However, sometimes the combat can be frustrating too usually in the more difficult battles where certain opponents are immune to grapples or conventional attacks. You really have to remember the key combinations to perform the right attack at the right time for harder opponents.

"In fact, I even noticed some Wing Chun moves as part of Wei Shen’s repertoire – which means some of the moves are authentic."

Besides the combat though, the rest of the game just mimics staples of any other GTA clone – except for the karaoke (which is a humourous but yet again, authentic addition for Hong Kong). There are several kinds of mini-games to play and clothes/vehicles/personal items to acquire (although you can’t seem to steal cars in this for your personal collection which is annoying) so it’ll definitely keep you busy if you enjoy the mini-games.

Sound (5/5)
No complaints about the audio and there are some quality voice actors involved including: Will Yun Lee, Tom Wilkinson, Edison Chen, James Hong, Emma Stone, Robin Shou, Lucy Liu and Kelly Hu,. Best of all is the use of actual Cantonese speakers for many of the voice actors; doing so gives the game a more authentic feel, much better than the voice acting in this classic game (coincidentally also set in Hong Kong):

Music (4/5)
Generally good – and once again authentic (or seemingly authentic) Chinese pop music along with some Western pop music – but usually lesser known songs from big bands such as Pale Shelter by Tears for Fears and Dragon Attack by Queen (for example).

Graphics (4/5)
Apparently with the HD texture pack the graphics look awesome and there’s a lot of detail in the game. The island definitely looks and feels like Hong Kong – or at least like other Asian cities I’ve visited before (since I haven’t actually been to Hong Kong yet :( ). Unfortunately, graphics can become a bit choppy at times with FPS hovering below the 30 mark, even on medium settings.

"The island definitely looks and feels like Hong Kong – or at least like other Asian cities I’ve visited before..."

Replay (3/5)
The main storyline is rather linear so once you’ve finished it there’s not really that much incentive to go back. There are a lot of side missions you can do in the game and the "completionists" out there will have plenty to do, however the rest of us will probably get bored quickly – there’s only so many illegal street races or chase sequences you can do before it becomes monotonous.

Polish (3/5)
Game isn’t too buggy although there is a showstopper bug right at the beginning of the game! You’re meant to follow someone at the beginning of the game but he ends up just stopping somewhere and if you wait around too long it’s game over even before you had a chance to delve into the story proper.

Score – 7/10

Sleeping Dogs has a stronger and more mature plot when compared to the many GTA clones out there and even pulls off a combat system that hits more than it misses. However, it ultimately suffers from the same pitfalls as its genre stablemates which means your enjoyment of the game depends on whether you find the mini-games and side quests fun.

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Steam.

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